Plants are one of our favorite items to place in our homes. They are beautiful, can be full of personality, and literally add life to your space. But did you know that a houseplant is actually good for your health? While that cute basket you found at the flea market may bring you joy on the daily, a plant can literally clear the air and make your home a better living environment for you and your body. Why? It all comes down to science.
As we are getting further away from nature thanks to our preference for living in cities over the countryside, our contact with natural plants is currently lower than it should be. "Biophilia is becoming more relevant as people are raised within urban settings, and surrounded by technology rather than nature and other living things," shares Paris Lalicata, customer experience coordinator at The Sill and a student of the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
"That’s why I feel it’s vital for humans to coexist with these elements rather than close our doors to them," she says. "Plants are our natural partners in life and incorporating them into our lives could not only help us reconnect with the natural world, but also benefit our health and well being."
Does looking at your houseplants make you feel happier? That's nature at work. "Seeing green leafy plants is good for us, cognitively and emotionally," shares Dr. Sally Augustin, an environmental and design psychologist and the principal at Design With Science. "When we are looking at a green leafy plant, our stress levels can go down, our mood can improve, and our minds can work more effectively. We are even likely to think more creatively."
That's why adding plants to spaces where you down to business is essential. "There is really good evidence showing biophilic elements in the workplace have positive effects on wellbeing, helping you to focus and lower stress levels," notes Lily Bernheimer, an environmental psychologist and director of Space Works Consulting.
Even being able to look out the window or just seeing a reproduction of greenery can give your mood a boost. "Artwork can bring the same sorts of biophilic benefits that we see from plants if it features natural scenes," she shares.
While having multiple plants in your home is a positive influence on your mental health, it's still important to maintain some balance in the space. "It's important to add the right concentration of plants to an environment,"explains Augustin. "It's good if people can see just a couple of moderately sized plants at one time or a smaller number of larger plants. Creating an interior jungle can be counterproductive — it can stress us out."
Another positive thing about plants? They naturally work to clear the air in your space. Remember learning about photosynthesis back in school? We'll give you a refresher. When plants take in a mix of carbon dioxide (which we breathe out) and sunlight, then produce oxygen that's expelled into the environment around them. More oxygen means cleaner air for us. There are even some plants that go the extra step to eliminate other kinds of bad toxins. Spider plants, for instance, can help remove benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene from the air.
"Pollution is not only found in the outdoor air of dense cities, but also within the places we call work and home," says Lalicata. "Airborne toxins and pollutant gases are emitted from mechanical equipment and building materials and contaminate the indoor air that we breathe."
"Good news is that we can improve quality with plants! They have the ability to exchange water and gases with their surroundings and capture these pollutants and convert them into stored energy, releasing naturally filtered air as a byproduct," she explains. "They can do this by absorbing the pollutants through the leaves, and transmitting the toxins to their roots where they’re converted into a food source."
If you want to add a breath of fresh air to your space, head to your local nursery and pick up a few greens that can thrive in your home. "Decreasing indoor air pollution doesn’t require creating an indoor jungle," says Lalicata. "About five to 10 plants in six to eight-inch planters are enough to clean a 800-square-foot space."
Our scientific hypothesis? A house full of plants leads to a healthier and happier you.